In a first, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday released a report highlighting the first-ever list of fungal “priority pathogens”. The list includes 19 fungi that represent the greatest threat to public health.
“The WHO fungal priority pathogens list (FPPL) is the first global effort to systematically prioritize fungal pathogens, considering the unmet research and development (R&D) needs and the perceived public health importance. The WHO FPPL aims to focus and drive further research and policy interventions to strengthen the global response to fungal infections and antifungal resistance,” the global health agency said in a statement.
According to WHO, fungal pathogens are a major threat to public health as they are becoming increasingly common and resistant to treatment with only four classes of antifungal medicines currently available, and few candidates in the clinical pipeline. Moreover, most fungal pathogens lack rapid and sensitive diagnostics and those that exist are not widely available or affordable globally.
The health agency also revealed that the invasive forms of these fungal infections often affect severely ill patients and those with significant underlying immune system-related conditions.
“Populations at greatest risk of invasive fungal infections include those with cancer, HIV/AIDS, organ transplants, chronic respiratory disease, and post-primary tuberculosis infection,” it added.
Meanwhile, the incidence and geographic range of fungal diseases are both expanding across the world due to global warming and the increase in international travel and trade.
“Emerging from the shadows of the bacterial antimicrobial resistance pandemic, fungal infections are growing, and are ever more resistant to treatments, becoming a public health concern worldwide,” said Dr. Hanan Balkhy, WHO Assistant Director-General, Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) in a statement.
The list is divided into three categories: critical, high and medium priority. The fungal pathogens in each priority category are so ranked primarily due to their public health impact and/or emerging antifungal resistance risk.
“We need more data and evidence on fungal infections and antifungal resistance to inform and improve response to these priority fungal pathogens,” said Dr. Haileyesus Getahun, WHO Director, AMR Global Coordination Department.
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